Fungal infections are common in hair, nails, and surfaces of the skin. Nail fungus infects toe and finger nails and is more common in toe nails when compared to fingers. Also referred to as onchomyosis, this condition may become very painful affecting the whole nail. It usually starts as a small white spot on the tip and as infection proceeds, it may form thick, brittle nails. It is more common in adults, especially those older than 60-years-old.
Nail fungus is caused by a group of fungus called dermatophytes, the most common among them being Trichophyton rubrum. These fungi grow in warm, moist environments and once the nails provide the best conditions possible for them to survive, they grow and spread to other parts as well. They gain access to the body through small cuts and wounds or through the space between nail and nail bed.
The risk of fungal infection is greater in people who:
- Share instruments for pedicure and manicure
- Have cuts and wounds in skin
- Have nail deformities
- Sweat a lot or have moist feet
- Weak immune system
- Use closed foot wear for a long time
- Walking bare foot in damp places for a long time, especially public areas like shower rooms and swimming pools
Fungal infection of nail is characterized by:
- Nail discoloration
- Thickening of nails
- Crumpling and brittleness of nails
- Deformation of new nails
- Separation of nails from the nail bed
- Distortion of nails
- Pain in toes
- Rashes and itching in the skin
- Foul odor from the toes
Fungal infection may lead to complications like damaged nails and also lead to other infections in the feet. Pain in the toes and fingers due to fungal infection is rare when compared to other symptoms. The symptoms should be brought to the attention of a physician if the pain increases or if the nail starts separating from the nail bed. Nail infections should be taken care of immediately, especially if you have diabetes or other medical conditions that weaken the immune system. Timely medical care can prevent future complications. Oral antifungal infections and topical applications are the two most common treatment options for controlling nail fungus.